Horniman Museum's £1.5m Aquarium To Open In July 2006

By Graham Spicer | 15 May 2006
a photograph of a man peering through a circular aquarium filled with jellyfish

Horniman Aquarium Curator Kerwin Porter. © Horniman Museum

South London’s Horniman Museum will help visitors discover the variety of the aquatic world when it opens its new high-tech aquarium on July 14 2006.

It will contain 15 living displays in seven zones, providing authentic habitats to more than 150 species of plants and animals. The £1.5m aquarium will be free to enter and holds some 14,000 litres of water – about 14 tons – featuring a state-of-the-art life support system.

There has been an aquarium at the Horniman since 1903, when it opened Britain’s first free public aquarium. The new facility will further educate the public about the natural world and the threats to aquatic environments.

“It’s going to be a greatly enhanced space,” said the aquarium’s curator, Kerwin Porter. “Visitors will be able to descend into the basement or living underbelly of the museum into what’s bubbling beneath.”

“The museum’s philanthropic founder and avid naturalist, Frederick Horniman, wanted to show the Victorian public the living natural world close up and we have tried to stay true to his vision.”

a photograph of jellyfish illuminated against a black background

Moon Jellyfish. © Chris Parks / imagequestmarine.com

Visitors will be able to learn about the variety of British pond life from a viewing den inside a hollow willow tree and then explore the marine life of the British Isles, where there will be a north Devon rockpool complete with crabs, shellfish and realistic wave surges.

One of Europe’s largest specialist jellyfish tanks will be home to a group of seawater moon jellyfish where the ocean currents will be accurately simulated.

There will also be an endangered Fijian coral reef, a spectacular mangrove swamp and a South American rainforest with atmospheric sounds and colourful flora and fauna like the monkey frog and leopard catfish.

“We’re trying to help people respect the natural world by encouraging them to be aware of environments under threat by using live exhibits in an informative and creative way,” added Kerwin.

The aquarium has enjoyed international support from marine biologists, habitat designers, environmental conservationists, aquatic experts, academics and educators since work began three years ago.

a photograph of a mangrove swamp half under and half above the water

Mangrove Swamp. © Roger Steene / imagequestmarine.com

Guyanese organisation Iwokrama helped the Horniman source environmentally sustainable plant and animal life forms to create the South American rainforest display.

World-renowned habitat artist Wakayama Naobumi, who has worked on Disney Sea, Tokyo; Disney Land, Hong Kong; London Aquarium and Chester Zoo, worked on the Horniman project.

“We have been amazed by the level of support that we have received from people who have been inspired by the environmentally sustainable way we are approaching the design of the new Horniman Aquarium,” said Kerwin.

Many other high-profile organisations have provided advice during the aquarium’s construction. These include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Vancouver Marine Science Centre, The Deep, London Zoo, Pond Conservation Trust, London Wetland Centre, California Academy of Science, Marine Biology Association, Sir Alistair Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, University of Aberdeen and King’s College, London.

There will be a series of events for children and families at the Horniman during the summer holidays to celebrate the opening of the aquarium. Check the museum’s website for more details.

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